Voice

All this policy relevance is making my head spin

Some in the policy blogosphere believe that the American Political Science Review does little more than publish abstruse, small findings of no consequence to anyone other than fellow political scientists.  And, truth be told, a lot of political scientists think this to be the case as well.  

The APSR has had a pretty decent month contradicting that belief, however.  The February 2010 issue of the journal already touched on issues related to Rusia's counterinsurgency tactics in Chechnya

A different article has now cropped up in a front-page story in the New York Times by Julia Preston on immigration.  Preston reports that more immigrants are employed in white collar professions than previously thought.  Why is this politically significant?  Preston goes to the APSR for an answer: 

The data belie a common perception in the nation’s hard-fought debate over immigration — articulated by lawmakers, pundits and advocates on all sides of the issue — that the surge in immigration in the last two decades has overwhelmed the United States with low-wage foreign laborers.

Over all, the analysis showed, the 25 million immigrants who live in the country’s largest metropolitan areas (about two-thirds of all immigrants in the country) are nearly evenly distributed across the job and income spectrum....

The findings are significant because Americans’ views of immigration are based largely on the work immigrants do, new research shows.

“Americans, whether they are rich or poor, are much more in favor of high-skilled immigrants,” said Jens Hainmueller, a political scientist at M.I.T. and co-author of a survey of attitudes toward immigration with Michael J. Hiscox, professor of government at Harvard. The survey of 1,600 adults, which examined the reasons for anti-immigration sentiment in the United States, was published in February in American Political Science Review, a peer-reviewed journal.

Americans are inclined to welcome upper-tier immigrants — like Ms. Kollman-Moore — believing they contribute to economic growth without burdening public services, the study found. More than 60 percent of Americans are opposed to allowing more low-skilled foreign laborers, regarding them as more likely to be a drag on the economy.

You can access the Hainmueller and Hiscox article by clicking here.  Their argument:

Past research has emphasized two critical economic concerns that appear to generate anti-immigrant sentiment among native citizens: concerns about labor market competition and concerns about the fiscal burden on public services. We provide direct tests of both models of attitude formation using an original survey experiment embedded in a nationwide U.S. survey. The labor market competition model predicts that natives will be most opposed to immigrants who have skill levels similar to their own. We find instead that both low-skilled and highly skilled natives strongly prefer highly skilled immigrants over low-skilled immigrants, and this preference is not decreasing in natives' skill levels. The fiscal burden model anticipates that rich natives oppose low-skilled immigration more than poor natives, and that this gap is larger in states with greater fiscal exposure (in terms of immigrant access to public services). We find instead that rich and poor natives are equally opposed to low-skilled immigration in general. In states with high fiscal exposure, poor (rich) natives are more (less) opposed to low-skilled immigration than they are elsewhere. This indicates that concerns among poor natives about constraints on welfare benefits as a result of immigration are more relevant than concerns among the rich about increased taxes. Overall the results suggest that economic self-interest, at least as currently theorized, does not explain voter attitudes toward immigration. The results are consistent with alternative arguments emphasizing noneconomic concerns associated with ethnocentrism or sociotropic considerations about how the local economy as a whole may be affected by immigration.

To unpack that abstract a bit:   Hainmueller and Hiscox are arguing that material self-interest does not explain attitudes about immigration.  The findings suggest one of two possibilities:  simple prejudice, or concerns that low-skilled immigration negatively affect overall U.S. welfare. 

I confess I have some skin in the game on this question, as I've argued that American attitudes towards immigration would be affected by implicit realpolitik calculations of national interest

Still, this is the second time in less than a month that a quant study in the most recent issue of the APSR has yielded salient findings about a matter directly affecting public policy. 

Daniel W. Drezner

You say idealist, I say realist... let's call the whole thing off

Everybody -- and by everybody, I mean FP --  is getting hot and bothered by this section of Peter Baker's New York Times story

If there is an Obama doctrine emerging, it is one much more realpolitik than his predecessor’s, focused on relations with traditional great powers and relegating issues like human rights and democracy to second-tier concerns. He has generated much more good will around the world after years of tension with Mr. Bush, and yet he does not seem to have strong personal friendships with many world leaders.

“Everybody always breaks it down between idealist and realist,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. “If you had to put him in a category, he’s probably more realpolitik, like Bush 41,” the first President George Bush, Mr. Emanuel said.

He added, “He knows that personal relationships are important, but you’ve got to be cold-blooded about the self-interests of your nation.”

Stephen G. Rademaker, a former official in the George W. Bush administration, said: “For a president coming out of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, it’s remarkable how much he has pursued a great power strategy. It’s almost Kissingerian. It’s not very sentimental. Issues of human rights do not loom large in his foreign policy, and issues of democracy promotion, he’s been almost dismissive of.”

Well, a couple of thoughts.  First, the idea of George H.W. Bush disdaining personal relationships is somewhat absurd.  Bush 41 was notorious for his thank you cards and supersized Rolodex.  On the margins, personal rapport among leaders does count for something, so this certainly helped Bush advance the national inrest. 

So that makes Bush different from Obama, right?  Well, let's click over to Scott Wilson's story in today's Washington Post now, shall we? 

[I]n convening his first international summit -- the largest on a single issue in Washington history -- [Obama] focused more squarely on his relationship with world leaders. He slapped backs, kissed cheeks and met one on one with more than a dozen heads of state, leavening his appeal to shared security interests with a more personal diplomacy.

The approach marked a shift for Obama as he seeks to translate his popularity abroad into concrete support from fellow leaders for his foreign policy agenda, most urgently now in his push for stricter sanctions against Iran.

"He's in charge, he's chairing the meetings, and this is where his personality plays a big part," said Pierre Vimont, the French ambassador to the United States, who compared Obama's role during the summit to the way he led the bipartisan health-care meeting at Blair House in February....

Obama's attention to his guests began on the summit's opening night, when he spent more than an hour and a half greeting the 46 foreign leaders and three heads of international organizations he invited.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom administration officials describe as high on the list of the European leaders Obama most admires, received a kiss on each cheek at the final bilateral meeting.

Obama bowed formally to Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. He used both hands to shake the hands of some leaders and joked with others.

David Miliband, Britain's foreign secretary, said such personal diplomacy is "quite important" at summits, especially one about an issue he said is "often seen as administrative."

"When Obama stands up and says 'My friend Dmitry Medvedev' or 'My friend Nicolas Sarkozy,' he's right, and that's important," Miliband said. "He's made a number of friends of world leaders, and I think that's a testament to why so many arrived to take part in this."

Wow, so it really is George H.W. Obama, right? 

As someone who thinks George H.W. Bush has been vastly underrated, I'd love to say yes.  But this gets confusing to your humble blogger.  After all, some have argued that Obama is really no different than George W. Bush.  I'm also pretty sure I've read somewhere, way back in early 2010, that Obama is really Jimmy Carter.  So I'm not sure  this comparison can or should stick. 

Moving from personalities to ideas, the realist/idealist divide, you still wind up with a muddle.  Bob Kagan is right to say that Obama's desire for a nuclear-free world is about as idealistic as one can get.  Similarly, Obama's affirmation of multilateralism doesn't seem terribly realist either.  On the other hand, his policies towards great power rivals like Russia and China, and dependent allies like Israel and Afghanistan, seem pretty damn realist.  Much like his Nobel Peace Prize address, the Obama administration's latest foray into the less shallow waters of international relations theory offers a sliver of support to all major IR approaches. 

Which box you put him in, I suspect, depends on which policy dimension you think matters most.  Human rights advocates will use the r-word; fans of nuclear deterrence will use the i-word.  As someone concerned with the management of great power politics, I'd be comfortable calling Obama an realist, but I'm biased  -- I speculated that this was the approach the post-Bush president would be forced to pursue

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images